We have traveled to OR, CA, AZ for the last 4 years. There is much to see!
We travel January/February. Here are some highlights, South to North:
HINT: Fill your car with gas before entering California. Don't worry about the price, it is more expensive in CA.
(You don't say how far south you plan on hitting the coast.)
Hearst Castle - really worth while to see at least once, ($25) [Note all prices are adult rate for one person]. 232 miles south of San Fran. The drive up CA46 is spectacular.
Hollister, CA - The San Andreas fault goes right through this city creating some very interesting views of sidewalks that don't go to front doors, etc.
Winchester House - not as far south. Only 50 miles to San Fran ($33)
If you want to see only the Winchester House, take 880 south from I-80 to San Jose. Don't take I-80 into SF. See below.
If you do go this way, upon leaving San Jose, take 280 and Hwy 1 north through SF. Do not follow 101 it goes right through the downtown. (Don't ask me how I know this.)
Golden Gate Bridge - Alcatraz Island - The bridge is toll free leaving the city going north, but does have a toll going south. Do not stop on bridge. Even if you get a flat, run on the flat until you are across.
If you come across I-80 it costs $15.00 to cross the bridge from Berkeley to San Francisco. Take the free 580 cutoff. This will connect you to 101 but you will miss the above sights.
A word about 101 in California. In some places it is like a freeway. In others, like a cowpath.
Note if you need gas coming into Willets, the independent gas station is more expensive than the Arco station a few blocks further at the light
Chandelier Tree - 183 miles north of SF exit 613.
Avenue of the Giants exit 645. If you want to see big trees this is a good side trip. It rejoins 101 at Myers Flat MP456. However, see 3rd paragraph below.
We like Peppers Restaurant in Fortuna. If you want to be weird like me, you can go to the Safeway behind the restaurant and buy a can of tuna so you can say you went to Fortuna for tuna.
Eureka, CA - If you are into old houses, Eureka has some interesting ones.
You will drive through redwoods right on 101. They end at Crescent City.
If you want to go to Crater Lake, take 199 out of Crescent City. Don't plan on making time on this route, but make sure your camera has batteries. Hint buy your gas in Oregon if you can. It is a lot cheaper, and they pump it for you!
After Crater Lake take 42 to get back to the ocean 101.
If you don't go to Crater Lake, be sure to stop at The Crazy Nowegian Fish and Chips in Port Orford.
Back on 101, Cape Perpetua is worth a stop. A nice visitor's center and if the surf is up be sure to watch the waves come up the canyon in the "Devil's Churn."
Sea Lion Caves, Florence, OR - May be worth a stop if the sea lions are in ($14) . OR you can stop at the wayside just north, follow the barking sound, and see the sea lions on the rocks below. Also a nice view of Heceta Head lighthouse across the bay.
Newport has a nice aquarium ($19) and a Ripley's Believe it or Not ($25).
If you stay in State Parks, Cape Lookout, while beautiful as is the drive to it, but the tsunami warning signs may give you a restless night.
Then you arrive at Tillamook. don't think the cheese is cheaper at the factory, it isn't. It is cheaper at Fred Meyer but they do have some free samples. There is also a nice air museum there in a former dirigible hanger ($9). It doesn't have the Spruce Goose, but then it isn't as expensive as McMinnville ($25) either. I liked the Spanish Messerschmidt.
Just out of Manzanita, is Oswald West wayside. A good place to view migrating whales or just look at the scenery.
Near Astoria is Fort Stevens SP. You can view old forts and if there is anything left of the Peter Iredale. Fort Stevens is unique in history as the only place on the mainland shelled (by a Japanese submarine) during WWII.
Now you can take the Astoria bridge to Washington and see Dismal Nitch, or you can drive east on US30 to Longview/Kelso and cross the Columbia there.
There is plenty of signs directing you to Mt St Helens, a worthwhile trip.
I like Spiffy's Restaurant at exit 88, US 12, or you can go to exit 111 and eat at Hawk's Prairie.
Then you can drive around Mt Rainier, 14,441'.
Taking I-90 east, the Country Cafe in Cle Elum is a good place to eat. Also the Warrior gas station at the west end as you come into town across from Safeway, has the cheapest gas.
At Vantage, at the west end of the I-90 bridge across the Columbia is Ginko Forest SP. Only these trees are all rock! The viewpoint on the east side is worhwhile and you can view the horse sculptures. Then there is George, Washington, Moses Lake, and on to Spokane.
Have a happy trip.
Any questions, my contact information is on this website. The fireworks have stopped and it is time to go to bed.